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Author Topic: History Corner: Triumph Motorbikes
Posts: 75
Post History Corner: Triumph Motorbikes
on: August 11, 2013, 16:30

In 1885 a 22 year old German guy named Siegfried Bettmann decided to move to Coventry, England. He worked for a couple of companies, including as a translator and salesman for a sewing machine company. He met an Englishwoman, they got married, and he became a British citizen. In his spare time he also sold bicycles manufactured by a Birmingham company. In 1886 he decided to name his company the Triumph Cycle Company. He also added a partner, Moritz Schulte, who just happened to be an engineer. Using Schulte's expertise, and loans from both his and Schulte's families, Triumph bicycles began production at a Coventry location in 1889.
During this time period, the internal combustion engine was starting to boom, so to speak, and the two decided to look into motorcycle sales. They first considered acquiring a license to produce either Hildebrand & Wolfmuller or Beeston Humber motorcycles, but when both ideas fell through they decided to just make their own.
In 1902 the first Triumph motorcycle, the "No 1" was built. It had a strengthened bicycle frame, a 2.25 bhp 1 cylinder Belgian Minerva engine, and retained the pedals, chain, and crank which were used to start the engine. The little creation was very popular, so they immediately set about designing a motorcycle of their own. In 1905 Schulte and the Triumph Works factory manager, Charles Hathaway, designed a 3 bhp 363cc side valve engine. Mr. Hathaway made the unusual choice to mount the crankshaft on ball bearings. The top speed was 45-50 mph. The following year the front fork design was altered. By 1908 they were using a 3.5 bhp 476cc engine with a crankshaft to wheel ratio that varied between 4:1 and 6:1 so the motorcycles could get up hills as well as straightaways. The ratio had to be changed manually, so the rider would have to dismount, unscrew the pulley,
and adjust the length of the belt to continue.
In 1908 a Triumph ridden by Jack Marshal won the Isle of Man TT. Someone noted “Eight Triumph’s started, and eight finished”; which was a testament to the reliability of the brand. In 1910 they added a foot operated wet drum clutch. This addition allowed the engine to be started while stationary instead of having to pedal the
motorcycle and then bump start the engine while in motion.
In 1911 Ivan Hart-Davies rode a Triumph 900 miles in 29 hours and 12 minutes. His trip went from Land’s End to John O’Groats. At this early stage in the automotive world, roads were not smooth pavement and I can only imagine the bruises that poor man would have sustained on the trip. The previous record was 6 days, so the little Triumph annihilated it. Unlike some of the automotive companies, WWI did not damage Triumph’s operations. The current model, the Type A, was purchased by the British Government. This model had 4 bhp and 550cc; and was perfect for the army dispatch riders. From 1914-1918 30,000 motorcycles were produced for military use. This little bike was nicknamed “The Trusty” (right). Remembering that Bettmann and Schulte were both German, this was an important move for them. In 1913 Bettmann had been elected Mayor of Coventry. When war broke out the next year, anti German sentiments ran high and many friends and business associates turned against them. Providing the military with motorcycles was a very measurable way to show
loyalty to their new homeland. They capitalized on this sentiment with post war advertisements. Pictures still to follow....

Posts: 400
Post Re: History Corner: Triumph Motorbikes
on: August 12, 2013, 09:41

Fascinating info as always...

Posts: 54
Post Re: History Corner: Triumph Motorbikes
on: August 13, 2013, 13:18

Great article! The parallels with Triumph and Sir William Morris Bicycles and motorbikes is striking.


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